More of the Unpopular Opinion

Revelation 5:1-10
Luke 19:41-44

If this day you only knew what makes for peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:42b

These came to me in College, they are called, Bailey’s Four Spiritual Flaws of Human Interaction:

  1. Humans are primates.
  2. Primates are Territorial.
  3. Humans have evolved to a point where “territory” includes abstract ideas.
  4. When primate territory is invaded, primates attack.

If we only knew what makes for peace…

Politically, these laws can be observed as both acting history and being used by humans to their advantage. Wherever in our world a political force wants to cement control, they create a need for a “peacekeeping” force, and then become that force. It is a policy that has served the Romans well, before them Alexander, and after them the British. It continues to serve America well. The Soviets used it in many places and Russia does it now (in Ukraine, for example). Indeed, any Empire-building political force uses it. This strategy is widely used in politics as well: it is called “Divide and Conquer. The blame, however, is not the politician that uses it, save indirectly. The strategy was invented by demons.

In all these narratives, it is those who would keep us apart that profit most from our division. The same is true, as I wrote yesterday, of the demons who are the only ones who want us to demonize each other. I read once, somewhere, that the difference between us and God is so vast that it is rude to point at another of his servants and say “She is more different than am I.” Yet we do that always.

Will D. Campbell, who is in the header quote above, was very active in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Here’s what the Wiki says about that:

In 1957, while working for the National Council of Churches, Campbell participated in two notable events of the Civil Rights Movement: he was one of four people who escorted the black students who integrated the Little Rock, Arkansas, public schools; and he was the only white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some black delegates opposed admitting him; but Bayard Rustin sponsored him. In 1961, he helped “Freedom Riders” of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to integrate interstate bus travel, despite white mob violence, in Alabama. In a 1964 interview with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro?, Campbell discussed many of the issues of the Civil Rights Movement, including the assassination of Medgar Evers by Byron De La Beckwith, Desegregation busing, and the relationship between theology and social activism.

Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals, for you were slain and with your Blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.
Revelation 5:9b-10

But then, Will took that “all nations” thing seriously. He got in trouble.  The Wiki continues:

His uncompromising theology has led him to keep his distance from political movements. He has insisted that “anyone who is not as concerned with the immortal soul of the dispossessor as he is with the suffering of the dispossessed is being something less than Christian” and that “Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well”. These convictions sometimes caused friction between Campbell and other civil rights figures, for example, when Campbell ministered to members of the Ku Klux Klan and visited James Earl Ray in prison. He remarked in 1976, “It’s been a long time since I got a hate letter from the right. Now they come from the left.”

Will had crossed the line against his fellow whites – realizing the at people of color are, first of all, people. But then he made a huge mistake, realizing that the haters needed to be loved too.

Jesus has made and called people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation into his own kingdom of priests to serve our God. Yet once inside that kingdom, he has commanded us to care for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the widow, the orphan, in ways that have nothing at all to do with their religion or race. In fact, it is our reaching out to the poor, ill, wounded, homeless, wealthy, gun-toting, violent, sexually used, or using non-Christians in God’s Agape, that is our primary act of evangelism. To ban them from our lands, our churches, our charity, our lives until they become “really” Christian (which really means, essentially, White Middle Class boring people) is to ban them from the Table of the Lord forever.

We want them to be “good enough” first. God has already died for them – how much gooder do they need to be?

I took heart reading the statement by the bishops that they were standing in solidarity with Christians in the Middle East as well as with migrants on our own shores.

“Although the vast majority of today’s refugees are non-­Christian; the vast majority of those who serve them are Christians, who continue to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth,” Bishop Gregory J. Mansour (Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn) said. “Today Christians are more united than ever, through a common suffering, a common martyrdom, and a common assistance given to those in need.” 

What we need now is a statement where we will stand in solidarity with the poor and the downtrodden in our own country, and not forget the rich need saving too. Where we will stand in solidarity with the unborn, and not forget the best time to save the unborn is before they are conceived. Where we will stand in solidarity with oppressed Natives and not forget the real oppression is their Reservation. Where we will stand in solidarity with workers whose real oppression is the wage slavery in which they labor, but whose bosses need to be educated to see their own greed. Everyone needs saving.  Paul understood this in Philemon’s letter.

Peace is hard work. It’s not – ever – making the other person think like us. Jesus commanded us to “Make disciples of all nations” yes, but he never said, “Convert your enemy”. Rather he commanded us to love, pray, forgive, and even serve our enemy in order to win his soul.

If we only knew what made for peace…

I’m afraid the internet, and indeed, our political space today, the “national conversation” if you will, wants one side to gain a victory while another side must be defeated. Merely human victory or defeat is entirely useless. The simply reality is: if Christians get caught up in these political games (as Christians have been doing for most of 2000 years) we neutralize our witness and mute our voices. When we get played by the system, we end up forgetting that Jesus is for everyone. If we build walls around property designated by our political overlords, we’ve only supported the demons, and we’ve only kept out Jesus. Our first duty is to go into all the world making disciples. We can’t do that by picking the lesser of two evils in an attempt to slay the larger one. The way forward is to proclaim that “Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well.” The Anti-Christian bigots, the bigots against children, the anti-Muslim Bigots, the racists bigots, the Atheist bigots, the anti-Gay bigots. All of them. Then we have to go love them – even if that means that we leave our political, secular friends angry at us (but we have to bring them too…)

“Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well”

Only peace saves.

Jesus is our Peace. Know Jesus: know peace.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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